Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has really done it now. The Walt Disney Company has had enough of the Republican's drive to do real business damage against the global megacorporation for the sake of his fading presidential ambitions, and they're taking DeSantis to court over it. And Disney is infamous for its deep-pocketed legal battles.
In a newly filed lawsuit, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is suing Desantis and an array of Florida officials from the Florida Department of Economic Security, and Central Florida Tourism Oversight District for "a targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney's protected speech."
Today’s action is the latest strike: At the Governor’s bidding, the State’s oversight board has purported to “void” publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs. This government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional. But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop. The Governor recently declared that his team would not only “void the development agreement”—just as they did today—but also planned “to look at things like taxes on the hotels,” “tolls on the roads,” “developing some of the property that the district owns” with “more amusement parks,” and even putting a “state prison” next to Walt Disney World. “Who knows? I just think the possibilities are endless,” he said.
Governor DeSantis and his allies paid no mind to the governing structure that facilitated Reedy Creek’s successful development until one year ago, when the Governor decided to target Disney. There is no room for disagreement about what happened here: Disney expressed its opinion on state legislation and was then punished by the State for doing so.
Disney has a very strong case. Even if the infamously litigious Mouse did not have an army of lawyers at its disposal, the DeSantis campaign to punish Disney for speaking up against DeSantis-promoted state culture wars (specifically, the state's new "Don't Say Gay" laws) was publicly broadcast and even bragged about. Dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District was itself expressly framed as based on Republican displeasure with Disney’s speech.
Republican elected officials have threatened over and over to retaliate against American companies that speak out against their culture-war pronouncements, but it's difficult to imagine a target DeSantis could have chosen that would have been worse for him. The company is, rightly or wrongly, beloved. The company is a truly massive employer, both in Florida and elsewhere. It is so influential that the federal government has repeatedly rewritten copyright laws for the purpose of protecting the company's interest over that of the general public. The company has one of the most feared legal teams on the entire planet.
And the Walt Disney Company is, on this one, completely in the right.
Disney finds itself in this regrettable position because it expressed a viewpoint the Governor and his allies did not like. Disney wishes that things could have been resolved a different way. But Disney also knows that it is fortunate to have the resources to take a stand against the State’s retaliation—a stand smaller businesses and individuals might not be able to take when the State comes after them for expressing their own views. In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.
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The past week seems to have packed in a month’s worth of news. Markos and Kerry tackle it all, from Joe Biden’s big announcement to Tucker Carlson’s early retirement from Fox News.